6 Easily-Missed Ways Anxiety Shows Up In Men

These signs can be easily overlooked.

Anxious man lying awake with insomnia Andrii Lysenko | Canva

Depression can look very different in men and women and anxiety is no different. Here are six ways that anxiety shows up in men, many of which are unrecognizable as anxiety to most people.

Here are 6 easily-missed ways anxiety shows up in men:

1. Rigidity

If you always have to do things your way, because it is “optimized” or “most efficient,” this may also mean that you are extremely anxious. You feel that if things aren’t done in exactly a certain order or manner, they will not get done at all. This inflexible thinking style is a hallmark of anxiety as well as OCPD.


2. Sleep problems

Some men struggle for their whole lives with insomnia and ruminate about all the different ways that things could go wrong at work, at home, in their relationships, etc. They think they are just bad sleepers, and neglect to realize that most people are able to set aside their worries and go to sleep. Insomnia, whether you cannot fall asleep in the first place or wake up too early consumed with worry, is not healthy and is linked to anxiety.

RELATED: I Tried Everything To Cure My Insomnia — What Finally Worked


3. Substance abuse

Relatedly, some men abuse substances so that they can relax and go to sleep. Since their minds race too much to wind down, they get in the habit of using alcohol, marijuana, or porn to be able to shut off their brains and go to sleep. Some men also do this from the minute they get home from work, to relax enough to interact pleasantly with their families. When you get tense at the idea of having to miss your substance for a day, this indicates that there is a problem.

4. Anger

When you are anxious, you feel very tense and “wired” all the time. When someone gets in your way, obstructs your routines, or wants to do things a different way, you may snap and scream at them or even insult them to get them to go along with you. For example, if an anxious man’s wife wants to take the scenic route on a car trip instead of the route he has planned, he may tell her she is being stupid instead of recognizing that his adherence to schedule is indicative of his overall anxiety.

RELATED: 7 Subtle Times Your Man's Anger Issues Are Actually A Cry For Help

5. Physical symptoms

Many anxious men struggle with irritable bowel syndrome (which, if undiagnosed, they just think of as “stomach issues”), migraine, back pain, and overall muscle tension. Some of these chronic pain conditions make their routines even more rigid. 


For example, if the man in the prior driving example is worried about having to go to the bathroom, then he will not want to drive on a route where he cannot stop at a rest stop if he urgently needs to. Many men are surprised when I tell them that many of the same medications are used to treat anxiety and chronic pain, showing that there may be a common etiology for both. Antidepressants can be used for anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, by the way, and this shows that there is an overlap between all three issues.

6. Relationship problems

Many anxious men over-perform on the job and do well in that setting because they always know that their work day will end, and they will be able to take off their “work persona,” which is very difficult for them to maintain. However, there is no “end of the day” in a relationship, and you are expected to be pleasant and loving 24/7, or close to it. This is extremely difficult for a man who feels constantly tense and needs many “wind down” routines to compensate for feeling in fight or flight for most of his waking hours. If your wife has said she needs to “walk on eggshells” around you, this may be why. 

RELATED: The Real Reason Men Inadvertently Screw Up Relationships, According To An Expert

Also, anxiety in men often leads to their children being scared to approach them. Anxious dads will shut down their kids’ ideas quickly, out of fear that they may have to try something outside their comfort zone. They often shut the kids down by yelling at them, which upsets their wives. When anxious men see their relationships with their wives and kids start to derail, this can be a huge motivator for many to finally address their anxiety.

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Anxiety is very responsive to therapy and medication. Exposure with response prevention works well for all types of anxiety, and understanding the origin of your anxiety and how your parents likely implicitly trained you to think in negative ways can be transformative for many men who think they are just “on top of things” or maybe a bit “Type A.” If this article spoke to you, reach out for therapy. Don’t let anxiety steal your relationship happiness and peace of mind any longer. 

RELATED: 17 Real-Life Techniques For Dealing With Anxiety Right Now (That Actually Help!)

Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of Dr. Psych Mom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.